Comrie’s memorable pro debut

Jets’ goaltending prospect answers the backup call and earns praise from McCambridge

Robin Short
Published on April 8, 2014

St. John’s IceCaps netminder Eric Comrie stops a shot from the Springfield Falcons’ Lukas Sedlak during the teams’ AHL game Friday night at Mile One Centre. After IceCaps starting netminder Tyler Beskorowany surrendered three goals on the first eight shots, Keith McCambridge looked down the bench to find Comrie was already looking his way and awaiting for the nod to replace his beleaguered teammate.

©— Photos by Jeff Parsons/St. John’s IceCaps

Given the way Friday night’s American Hockey League game was shaping up early on, you could excuse young Eric Comrie if he contemplated hiding under the St. John’s IceCaps bench rather than be thrown to the wolves, or in this case, the Falcons.
Comrie, all of 18, was dressing for his first professional hockey game, with the IceCaps after the parent Winnipeg Jets sent he and fellow blue-chip prospect Josh Morrissey to St. John’s for a little late-season pro experience.

The baby-faced Comrie had just finished his Western Hockey League season, his Tri-City Americans KOed in five games in the first round of the playoffs by the Kelowna Rockets.

Friday at Mile One Centre, wearing a ball cap and jersey No. 30, Comrie was sitting on the bench backing up Tyler Beskorowany against the high-flying Springfield Falcons.

The Falcons, second overall in the Eastern Conference, lit up Beskorowany for three goals on the first eight shots he faced for a 3-0 lead. The game wasn’t even 10 minutes old.

So in came Comrie, and while the youngster did allow another two goals before the period was over, and a 5-1 Springfield lead, he kept the IceCaps in the game.

In fact, St. John’s nearly pulled out the win, only to see Jack Skille, the former seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft, score with 17 seconds left in regulation time to tie things up 7-7. Then Sean Collins won it for the Falcons in the extra session when he beat Comrie at the 2:50 mark, a play that started with what perhaps should have been a penalty after IceCaps’ captain Jason Jaffray was hauled down in the neutral zone.

It was a wild one, for certain, one of those I’ll-never-forget-my-first-pro-game moments for Comrie and Morrissey.

Thing is, if not for the end result, the story of the night might well have been Comrie, the slender 6-1, 170-pound goalie who stopped 35 of 40 shots for a third-star effort.

“I was nervous, for sure,” he said afterwards. “It’s your first pro game.

“But to be honest, I was really excited, too. It’s always exciting to get on the ice and play the sport you love.”

Comrie certainly made an impression on IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge, who is not always easily impressed. In those situations, McCambridge said, when a team appears to be on its way to a shellacking, backup goalies aren’t too fussy about going in to relieve the rattled starter.

“Usually there’s not a lot of eye contact towards the head coach,” said McCambridge. “Not him (Comrie). He was looking directly at me. He wanted to go in.

“I like that. He’s a young man who wants to play, wants to get right in there and that was a chance to jump in with both feet.”

Comrie was the Jets’ third pick in the 2013 draft, 59th overall, behind Morrissey (13th) and 2014 Canadian world junior star Nic Petan (43rd).

He was 26-25-9 for the Americans this season, with a 2.57 goals against average and .925 save percentage.

Comrie is expected to contend for a spot on Canada’s world junior team next season.

That Comrie is a hockey player shouldn’t be surprising. His half-brothers Mike and Paul Comrie both played in the NHL, Mike for 11 seasons and Paul for 15 games with the Edmonton Oilers.

His 16-year-old brother, Ty, was a teammate this season on the WHL’s Americans.

See ‘HE LOOKED’, page B2

An Edmonton native, Comrie spent a good part of his childhood growing up in Newport Coast, Calif., just outside L.A., where his parents now live.

His father is Bill Comrie, founder of the The Brick, a widely popular furniture store later sold to Leon’s for a reported $700 million price tag.

While the Comrie boys might lead a charmed life, young Eric is determined to do all the work required to forge a pro career.

Not that it’s work.

“Every game is exciting, no matter if it’s a 1-0 game or something like this,” he said after the Friday slugfest. “You play the sport because you love it.

“It’s fun facing a lot of shots.”

Whether Comrie gets any more work is anyone’s guess. The IceCaps play the Hamilton Bulldogs 7:30 tonight and Wednesday and Beskorowany figures to get the start in both games (he won Saturday night’s rematch against the Falcons, 3-1).

Then it’s a couple of weekend games against the Hartford Wolf Pack at Mile One, before clewing up the regular season the following Friday and Saturday in Worcester, Mass. and Portland, Me.

The Jets have only two games remaining, Thursday (Boston Bruins) and Friday (Calgary Flames), and after that, if not sooner, Michael Hutchinson will be reassigned to St. John’s.

Whatever the short-term future holds, Comrie has caught McCambridge’s eye.

“I though he was real sharp,” the coach said of the kid’s debut. “Coming in under those circumstances, against an excellent team, he performed very well.

“He didn’t shrink, and what I mean by that is in a game like this, when there are a lot of pucks coming at you, pucks bouncing off legs, he didn’t get smaller with low confidence. He looked big, he looked good.

“I saw him at the Jets’ rookie camp in Penticton (B.C.) last summer, and I liked him then. He was a real focused young man, and I though he was the same Friday.”